Trove Detective: Samuel Young’s Diary: Crossing the Gippsland Lakes, 1902.

Still Day 2:  Sale to Cunninghame aboard the ‘Omeo’

Wednesday March 26th, 1902.                                                                  Rail. River. Lakes.


Swing Bridge & S.S. ‘Omeo’ at Sale (Tuckey, 1900). State Library of Victoria a14790

At first, the journey is along a dirty canal (canal is a nice word but this particular canal is like an enlarged ill kept sewer) until the narrow and pretty Latrobe River is reached. The reason of the canal being in existence is shown by this sketch.

SLNSW_SamYoung_Page 4

The Latrobe is so narrow, that in order to turn the steamer needs must put its bow on the bank to swing round. The banks of the river abound with vegetation, the larger species being willows, gums and a few pines, whilst extending from either bank are rich marshy grassy flats on which many cattle and horses graze in lazy contentment. Mobs of the latter gallop along the banks as an escort to the steamer just as sea birds follow in the wake of an ocean steamer. The lonesome looking but beautifully blue plumaged red-billed water hens stand on the banks singly. The next object of attention is a large white swing bridge across the stream, which is worked by elaborate machinery. At least two hundred carcasses of dead cattle are interspersed amongst the rushes and reeds but luckily enough they had not been there for sufficient time to putrify, or else the stench would have equalled Footscray’s worst. It seems they are a portion of a mob of thirteen hundred that, after being twelve months on the road through drought stricken Queensland and New South Wales, arrived in such an emaciated condition that on rushing into the inviting waters were too weak to struggle out.

There is a notice on the vessel “No shooting allowed on board” and the reason is evident on the boat entering Lake Wellington on whose now placid surface many thousands of ducks, swans, and other waterfowl abound. The Lake is 12 miles across with an average depth of fifteen feet. After it has been crossed, the Straits (which is like unto a river confined in mangrove timber) are passed through. During this passage the vessel puts in at a miniature pier of a miniature township of three houses called by the name of Seacombe and here a few papers and fishing baskets are thrown ashore, together with some loaves of bread. The child now saw an advertisement of the advantages to be obtained by staying at the Club Hotel Cunninghame ending with the announcement “No Mosquitoes” and this makes him think of an establishment where they breed them.


Gippsland Lakes. Maps showing routes of steamers (Sale Steamboat Co, 1910). State Library of Victoria.

SLVic_1553112-2Holland’s Siding, where a few fishermen reside, is the next place of interest and then the boat steams out of the Straits into Lake Victoria, which extends 19 miles but is much narrower than Lake Wellington. During the transit of this huge sheet of water the wind and rain beat strongly on the little steamer but she ploughs through the choppy waves staunchly. Then the channel between Paynesville and Raymond Island is entered. Raymond Island is 6000 acres in area and has a village settlement on it. Truly, the settlers must feel as if they are in another Venice with rough huts in the place of mansions and ti-tree instead of paved walks because there are many lagoons and inlets on the shores.

The pretty little township of Paynesville holds a surprise in a two-storied house of brick and a compact, though short street of a few dozen houses. At tea time an acquaintance strikes up between a Ballarat gentleman and the child and they pass the rest of the journey to Cunninghame together. The yellow haired girl came to tea in a bright scarlet jacket in care of her mother. At another small township rejoicing in the native name of Metung (more like Chinese than Aboriginal lingo) a blackfellow called Ragaman is waiting to row his master who is on board to a small homestead situated on an island in the Lake. It now becomes dark and the glimmering lights of Kalimna and Cunninghame show out. The last part of this trip is through Reeves River (Lakes Entrance) and the following portrait describes it far better than a pen picture of the same.


Reeve’s River from Jimmy’s Point (Rose Stereograph Co, 1920). State Library of Victoria H85.70/85

As the yellow haired girl has told the Ballarat gentleman that Kioia House is a convenient place to stay, all disembark at a small pier at half past nine and drive a few hundred yards from the water’s edge. The prospect of continuing the journey the following morning looks gloomy for the child but after an hour’s conversation at the fireside he retires to rest hoping for a change in the weather.

***To be continued**

Postcards provide an invaluable record of all kinds of places. Most of the illustrations from Samuel’s Diary were from postcards available at the time. I like to buy postcards on my travels and include them in my photo albums too. Many of the postcards available on Trove are similar to the ones Samuel included in his diary. It was terrific to find through Trove, the map for the Sale Steam Co., especially as it included an itinerary showing times for departures and arrivals as well as prices, 35/- for the Round trip from Melbourne. The National Library of Australia has a large Ephemera collection, or what my family calls ‘junk’, that many of us collect in our day to day lives or on holidays. The postcards of the Swing Bridge & the Omeo at Sale, Reeves River and the Sale Steamboat Co. maps were all found on Trove with links to the State Library of Victoria. Fortunately, Trove often includes information regarding copyright but if in doubt it’s best to ask. My thanks to the State Library of Victoria for their permission and for making these images available online. The canal sketch is from Samuel’s Diary with thanks once again to the Young family for their kind permission to use the diary.


Tomorrow Samuel travels on the Royal Mail Coach to Orbost where he finally meets the boy, his brother William and their adventures really begin.

One thought on “Trove Detective: Samuel Young’s Diary: Crossing the Gippsland Lakes, 1902.

  1. The steamer identified in the Tuckey photo as SS Omeo is in fact SS Dargo steaming toward Sale. Tuckey photographed both steamers at the same spot around the same time and they do look similar. The photo he took of the Omeo shows it steaming away from Sale, down the river. Careful comparison to other photos clearly show Tuckey (or perhaps an assistant) mislabeled the surface of the negative.

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